How To Save Up To $18.000 A Year Teaching English In China While Traveling

Living in China and working as an English teacher, like us, might not only be a great cultural experience, unforgettable adventure and travel dreams come true, but also a great source of income. I have mentioned before that my full-time job as an English teacher in one of private Chinese kindergartens allows me to support my long-term voyages across Asia, live here at high standard and still be able to save some money. You can find English teaching jobs in China here on eTramping.

A typical Chinese classroom. Minimal. Very Feng Sui.

If you have ever considered going to China and working full-time, here is how much money you can approximately earn within a year, what your spending might be and how much in total you can save:

Income in China

Current rate

1 RMB (Chinese Yuan) = $0.16

1 RMB = 0.12 euro

1) Full-time Teaching Job

The salary for English teachers in China vary a lot. It depends on your teaching experience, references, gender, nationality and location. If you don’t have neither TESOL nor TEFL certification, you are an inexperienced teacher, and your university degree is not related to education, you will obviously get paid less, but you can still get a job. Moreover, female teachers are typically paid more than male teachers because they are considered as more patient with kids and more reliable. Nationality, in most cases, does not play a major role- as long as you are a Caucasian and you speak good English – you shouldn’t have any problems finding a job as a teacher. If you’re not Caucasian, you may find it more difficult to find an English teaching job in China, but we know great many people who managed to do that, so don’t give up. To increase your chances you should take a TEFL course and prove to the schools that you’re qualified teacher. Obviously, the salaries in bigger cities are much higher than in small towns/countryside (the cost of living is also higher).

Don’t think that the higher salary is impossible to obtain, either. If any of this sounds like something you are interested in pursuing, then by all means start working toward a degree in Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TESOL). As long as you study hard and make sure to be conscious of all career opportunities both in and out of school, you should be all set. Both me and Cez did our TEFL accreditation and we’re happy we did.

Adorable Chinese students.

Inexperience teachers can earn between RMB 6.000 and RMB 10.000 per month. RMB 6.000 is the absolute minimum for 16 x 45-minute classes so if you ever get offered less, you can start laughing (ironically). This amount of money can be offered in small towns and rural areas where you don’t need to spend much on food and transportation. If you are TESOL/TEFL certified teacher in a bigger city, your salary should be between RMB 8.000 –RMB 15.000 (again per 16 x 45-minute classes). The more hours you work, the more money you can get. For instance, an average salary of experienced foreign teacher working up to 35-40 hours (including office hours) would be RMB 14.000 or more.

2) Private Teaching

Apart from working in a school/learning center or kindergarten, you can also do some private teaching in your apartment. Most weekends are off work (Mondays and Tuesdays if you work in a Learning Centre) so if the time allows, you can teach a few kids at home. An hour (60 minutes) of private English tutorial is between RMB 150-RMB 300. Let’s say you work 2 extra hours on Saturday and 3 extra hours on Sunday and you charge RMB 150/h, you can earn up to RMB 3.000 per month.

 3) Winter and Summer Camps

During the summer and winter you can also work as a teacher. There are summer and winter camps held in all provinces in China. You will be teaching for 14 days in a row, 4-5 classes a day and your pay should be between RMB 8.000 and RMB 10.000. These courses are very intensive, but you can earn more money in 2 weeks than usually in a month and still have another 2 weeks off.

Total earning teaching English in China

RMB 9.000 (your salary) + RMB 3.000 (private teaching) = RMB 12.000/ month, RMB 120.000/ 10 month + RMB 18.000 (summer and winter camp, RMB 9.000 each)= RMB 138.000 = $21.345.


1. Accommodation

The good news is that almost all Chinese schools provide a free accommodation (fully equipped) for their teachers. It does not matter what province you work in and how many teaching hours you do weekly, you will be given a free apartment with free Wi-Fi and no bills (electricity, water, etc.) to pay monthly. Some schools might ask you to pay your bills, but it should not be more than RMB 300 per month (up to RMB 500 during the summer for the air-conditioning).

Our flat in Dongguan. Small but cozy.

 2. Food

Again, most of the schools offers free meals during your working hours. If you work early in the morning you can have a free breakfast and lunch (rice/ noodles, meat and veggies) in a school canteen and some snacks in between (a piece of fruit, cookies). If you do late shifts you can stay after your class to have a nice dinner with your colleagues.

A serving of Baozi – traditional Chinese dumplings.

Don’t worry if you don’t want to eat at work as dining out in local restaurants is not expensive at all. A typical Chinese breakfast (3 Chinese dumplings, porridge or noodle soup) will cost you between RMB 3 and RMB 10, you should not pay more than RMB10 per lunch and the same amount of money for your dinner. Add a bottle of water (RMB2) and a can of coke (RMB3) and your total food cost per month should not be more than RMB 1.200.

Food spending

  • Breakfast – RMB 8
  • Lunch – RMB 10
  • Dinner – RMB 10
  • Drinks – RMB 7
  • Total: RMB35 x 30 days = RMB 1.050/ month, RMB 12.600/ year = $2.068.

3) Travel

If you are a budget traveller, China will be your paradise! It’s not only massive, extremely beautiful and challenging in terms of the language, but also very affordable. You can easily travel by bus from one city to another (an average bus ride costs RMB 30-RMB 100) or by train if you want to get from one province to another (one-way sitting ticket costs between RMB 80 – RMB 200). In some major tourist cities such as Shanghai, Beijing, Zhangjiajie or Chongqing, you can easily find a budget hostel for which you can pay RMB 30 per night (dorms). There are also a few places such as Fenghuang and Dongguan where hostels are not very common and you need to spend more money like RMB100 per night.

The Temple of Heaven, Beijing.

Let’s say you want to go for one weekend trip every month:

  • Train tickets – RMB 400
  • Hostel RMB100/night 3x RMB100 = RMB 300
  • Food RMB 35×3= RMB 105
  • Other expenses (taxi, souvenir, ticket entrance to different attractions) RMB 400 = RMB 1205/month, RMB14.460/ year = $2.374.

Summing Up A Year in China


Your Spending/ Year:

  • Accommodation – RMB 0
  • Food – RMB 12.600
  • Travel – RMB 14.460
  • Total: RMB 27.060

Your Earnings/ Year: RMB 138.000

Your Savings/ Year: RMB 138.00- RMB 27.060= RMB 110.940 = $18.215.90

Now tell me…

Is it worth working in China? :-)


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Agness Walewinder
Agness Walewinder
Travel freak, vagabond, photography passionate, blogger, life enthusiast, backpacker, adventure hunter and endless energy couchsurfer living by the rule "Pack lite, travel far and live long!"
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